A team of experts arrived at Ganne village in Allahabad district on Thursday to find out whether the central government programmes existed at all in the village and to assess child malnutrition cases.
HT published an expose on April 4 that children in the village under Shankergarh block of Bara tehsil, about 45 km east of district headquarters Allahabad, are used to eating silica-laced mud to kill hunger.
This led to serious diseases and deaths.
Although most of the village’s 149 families are living below poverty line (BPL), they are not eligible for getting food grains meant for those living BPL, as they are not officially classified as poor. Only 45 families in the village have BPL cards. What’s more, none of the government’s pro-poor schemes have ever reached the village.
Before the Supreme Court sent a probe team to the village on Tuesday following the HT report, government officials descended on the village on Monday morning, distributing biscuits among children and forcing their parents to put thumb impressions on statements that all was well in the village.
Thursday’s visit was by a four-member team, comprising Shree Ranjan and Mahesh Arora from the ministry of women and child development and Neelima Bhatia and Kumarum Bharwah from the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development.
The team asked the villagers about the availability of ration under the Public Distribution System, nutritious semolina for children and lactating mothers at the twin Anganwadi Kendras (village welfare centres), besides mid-day meal schemes in the two primary schools.
But on its visit to the kendras, they found blank registers, besides unused weighing machines and printed growth charts for tracking the growth of children.
The villagers said since the publication of the HT report three days ago, they had been receiving food grains and semolina, besides food for children under the mid-day meal scheme.
The team, however, stopped the district officials from accompanying them during their door-to-door visits, as the villagers were hesitant to open up in presence of the local officials.
They also asked for a weighing machine for measuring the Body Mass Index of over two dozens of children. The team found the children to be suffering from acute malnutrition.
The experts visited the neighbouring Surval Sahni and Pandit-Ka-Pura villages and enquired about the health of the villagers and availability of benefits under various government-sponsored schemes.